Avid and long-time letter-writer Chris Lucas passed his 60-page book along to me this morning via email, entitled “The Guide to Writing Letters to Celebrities”. The FIRST thing I noticed was that the book was super-easy to read, and explained things simply and effectively.
His self-satisfying, and functionally-systematic approach is sure to be inspiring, even to those who have no desire of writing a letter. Chris realized the validity of the hand-written letter a long time ago from his personal experiences, and now literally writes the textbook when it comes to understanding this more-authentic communication medium. In the day and age of electronic nuisances, this author stays strong to ink on paper.
My rating: 9.3/10
Here’s my 20-question interview with Chris Lucas:
1) Briefly introduce yourself. Where are you from, where do you live now?
My name is Chris Lucas. I’m a professional actor. I live just outside of New York City, in the suburbs of New Jersey. Yes, I’m a Jersey Guy but nothing like the ones you see on reality TV.
2) How many letters have you received in your lifetime, approximately?
Let’s see, I’ve been mailing a letter a day for two decades, which is just over 7,000 letters. My response rate is 10 -25% so I’d say I’ve gotten almost 2,000 letters back from celebrities.
3) What’s the most satisfying response(s) you’ve ever received?
The first celebrity letter I ever got back from a star was from Christopher Reeve (I was 10.) To have Superman write to me was a thrill I stil haven’t forgotten, and I’ve been hooked on writing since.
A few years ago, Jay Leno called me to chat for 15 minutes after he got my letter. That blew me away.
The most satisfying response I ever got, however, was from Penny Marshall, who read about my Dad’s life story after I mailed a letter. She and her partners bought the rights, and now a movie about my Dad, starring Stanley Tucci, is going to be made.
4) Do you have good handwriting? Do you feel that’s important?
I do have good handwriting, but most of the letters I send are done in a word processing program. I do, however, hand write the envelopes, which IS important, so it doesn’t look like junk mail. If I had to hand write 7,000 letters I’d have carpal tunnels by now big enough to drive trucks through.
5) Is there anyone in the world that you’ve wanted to contact, but hesitated to send a letter to?
I’m not intimidated by sending letters to anyone. At just over 40 cents, what’s the harm? The worst that can happen is that I won’t hear back. I’ve written to Presidents, Popes, Kings, you name it. They’ve all written back.
6) Is there anyone you haven’t written to that you want to?
My list is long, and I take a chunk out of it each week. The regrets I have are people that I should have written to before they died, but didn’t (like Jimmy Stewart, Johnny Cash, Julia Child, etc.)
7) Who is your book meant for?
Originally it was written for actors, to help them reach out to producers and dirctors to advance their careers, and for fans sending letters to their favorite stars, but I’ve recently had positive feedback from parents and teachers who’ve used it as a way to get their kids excited about writing (Of course they are more eager to compose letters to Will Smith, JK Rowling, Derek Jeter or Justin Bieber than thay are to Grandma, but it’s a start.)
I’ve also heard from charities who have had success using the lessons from the book to get autographed items for their auctions and raffles.
8) Do you write a letter several times before it’s ‘ready to send’ or do you just ‘go for it’?
It usually only takes me one pass to write the letter, as I’ve done so many it’s second nature. What takes time, though, is the research I do on each person before I actually write the letter. As I point out in my book, that is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a response.
9) Is it possible to do this for a living?
I’m not sure that you can make a living writing letters, but the skills you pick up, and the connections that you make, will help you in any career you choose. Personally, I’ve seen great success in my line of work just from writing letters.
10) How has letter writing benefited you in your career?
I booked a starring role in one of the biggest selling video game series of all time (“Grand Theft Auto”) worked with an Academy Award winning director on creating a feature role for myself in one of his last films, and I’m now co-producing a major motion picture with A list talent, all from writing letters.
11) What are some of the craziest responses you’ve gotten to your letters?
I get a lot of travel brochures whenver I write to royalty or to foreign leaders. They all invite me to visit them at their Palace or executive mansions. As soon as my passport is ready, I’m there.
Jack Lemmon once sent me a package full of autographed golf balls, tees, a shirt and keychains.
12) Have you developed any friendships with celebrities from the letters you’ve written?
Yes, I’ve kept in touch with quite a few of them and I’m often invited to lunch or dinner or to meet with them backstage when they are in NYC doing a movie, TV program or Broadway show. It’s nice to b thought of as a friend, no just a fan. I respect their boundaries and privacy too.
13) What do you do with all of the letters you get back? Do you ever sell the autographs?
I’m not in it to make a profit, just to make a connection with people I admire, so I never part with autographs (which are usually at the bottom of a personal letter to me, anyway.) I keep all of the letters I’ve gotten in a safe place (sadly, I lost some of the early ones - including Christopher Reeve’s - in a flood years ago.)
14) You made a comment in your book that if anyone found any proofreading errors, that you’d give them $1. Have you had any reported? :)
Yes, there have been a few sharp eyed people who have found the errors, and they’ve collected their reward. I did intentionally leave a few mistakes in to illustrate the point that nobody will ever be perfect. If you wait for perfection, it won’t get done. Just go ahead and write your letter!
15) How has your attention to detail proven to be an effective characteristic in your communication ‘habits’?
It’s made me more well rounded, both as a person and as an actor. The more you pay attention to the little details in life, the better your daily habits become.
16) Why write a letter? What’s wrong with email, instant messaging or Tweets?
Let’s be clear, I have nothing against social media or email. I use them all the time. If you want to write to celebrities and to have your message stand out from the rest, a letter is still the best way to go.
It seems old fashioned, but since so few people these days actually take the time to write and mail a letter, your message will shine like a diamond in a pile of coal.
Emails can be easily ignored and deleted, Tweets can be passed on to assistants to reply to. A letter cuts through all that and gets into the hands of the people that matter.
17) Can you guarantee that I will hear back from my favorite stars after reading your book?
No, I can’t make any solid guarantees (my lawyers will be happy that I said that) but I can tell you that if you follow the advice and tips included in my book, you will vastly improve the chances of getting a response to your letter. I know from personal experience (and I also give examples in the book of others that have had success) that this system works.
Special thanks to Chris for his time and patience with this interview :)